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Although companies are placing greater emphasis on digital marketing, senior executives lack a solid understanding of how marketing works and how it can help them achieve their business goals. If marketers hope to engage leaders, they must learn to better organize their teams and use technologies such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to demonstrate results through higher campaign performance across the board. throughout the marketing cycle.
Advertisers must “create a competitive advantage by prioritizing digital marketing maturity,” says Lucie Volmer, Google’s director of performance solutions. “By defining clear business goals, empowering cross-functional work, fostering a test-and-learn mindset, and investing in ML and AI, marketers create lasting value for the company and shareholders.”
Here are some of the key findings from the 2021 Forrester Digital Marketing Maturity Survey, conducted on behalf of Google, which collected responses from more than 500 marketers and decision makers in the United States.
Nearly three-quarters of survey participants said the role of marketing gained importance in the past year, and 1 in 4 said their companies increased digital spending by at least 10%.
For many, that turned out to be a wise move. Organizations that allocate more than half of their market budgets to digital initiatives improved performance on three key business outcomes (revenue, sales volume, and market share) by 10% or more.
With results like that, it can seem like companies should dive right into digital projects. But a combination of internal factors is holding many back. Marketers who are serious about success with digital marketing clearly need to improve their understanding and communication about digital.
Overcoming organizational challenges
The survey indicates that respondents face three major digital marketing challenges: improving their communications about their efforts, addressing planning gaps, and choosing the right metrics.
Improved communication: Less than 50% (just 41%) of senior leaders have a very good understanding of the relationship between digital marketing performance numbers and business results, according to the survey. In other words: marketers are simply not doing a proper job communicating their digital marketing results to the C-suite.
In fact, they are not even communicating well with each other. Only 40% said they are doing “very well” in coordinating with internal stakeholders in planning, creating and executing their marketing programs.
Part of the problem: There are simply more cooks in the kitchen these days. On average, 18 decision makers are now involved in digital marketing investments, the survey found, and they often disagree with the strategy.
Those findings serve as a clear call for marketers who take digital strategies seriously first to better organize and align their teams, improve efforts to achieve specific business goals, and communicate results more effectively to their colleagues, business leaders. the organization and other interested parties. Those who do are much more likely to create campaigns that outshine those of their competitors.
Address planning gaps: When the researchers examined the five key phases of a marketing campaign – planning, creating, executing, optimizing and measuring – they found numerous opportunities for improvement. Companies can increase their performance at each phase, but planning was highlighted as the biggest barrier to success.
Only 32% of marketers and 29% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers said the campaign planning process went very well. A little over half were confident that they had selected the correct business objective for a given marketing project, and only 42% were confident that they had identified the correct target audience, which of course is a determining factor in achieving the right target. success. In fact, planning is at the heart of marketing. By skipping the planning piece (including core considerations around emotion, motivation, and customer context in life), marketers will optimize on a fish tank, where all technology and data will become commodities. . The real differentiation comes for those who start with solid strategic planning to inform deeper creation, execution, optimization, and measurement.
Furthermore, less than half of the respondents (46%) felt very confident that their concepts would resonate with the target audience or that they had selected the right channels to convey their messages. Only 40% were successful in predicting the financial outcome of campaigns, a metric that must improve if marketers are to gain credibility in the C-suite.
To plan effectively, marketers must pay close attention to leaders’ specific business goals and create campaigns using clearly defined metrics to achieve them. They must also work together to reach consensus on strategy and tactics before running a campaign. Better planning will lead to better results throughout the campaign life cycle.
Choice of metrics: Marketers must also improve campaign execution and optimization. Only 42% felt very confident in using key performance indicators (KPIs) for critical variables, including conversions. Less than half (43%) are trained to use a propensity model, a key measurement tactic that captures customer lifetime value, allowing marketers to step up their efforts where they will get the strongest results.
Many marketers had trouble recognizing whether the sales leads they were getting were for B2B or business-to-consumer (B2C) customers. They also stumbled when deciding which variables to change during a campaign. Less than half of B2C companies, and only 39% of B2B companies, said they were very well equipped to experiment with different advertising strategies.
Machine learning and automation could help marketers implement more advanced measurement models, clearly delineate prospects, make informed decisions about optimization, and accelerate campaign execution. But only 44% said they are using ML to optimize campaigns.
Measuring the results
Surprisingly, given the wide range of channels companies use to reach customers, only 38% of surveyed marketers use omnichannel attribution. Without it, they cannot demonstrate which of their touchpoints leads to success.
With separate teams working across multiple marketing channels, attribution and other important metrics can be difficult to determine. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of coordination among stakeholders revealed by the survey.
Again, using the right technology could help. A platform that provides a unified view of customers across all channels would facilitate both collaboration and the calculation of results. It would also serve as a vehicle for creating an easy-to-understand graphical representation of those results for busy C-suite executives. But only 48% of B2C marketers and 35% of B2B marketers said they have a comprehensive view of customer activity across all channels.
“It all comes down to marketing’s ability to show that it can deliver better business results,” says Matt Drzewicki, Google’s director of industry. “One of the ways we’ve seen CMOs do this successfully is through a joint publicity panel developed in collaboration with the CFO. Such a powerful partnership enables a source of truth and focuses on business outcomes such as profits. With a strong CMO-CFO alignment, both planning and measurement become very clear to the organization at all levels. ”
Achieve Marketing Maturity
The survey results are clear: To gain commitment to a digital priority strategy, marketers must demonstrate to business leaders with a strong, unified voice how their programs measurably help achieve business goals. They can only do this if they learn to improve internal coordination, take the time to focus on the key components of a marketing campaign, and master the correct use of technology tools. Those who succeed will gain more high-level support by demonstrating better business results and will achieve superior marketing results over the competition throughout the marketing cycle.